Vietnam has decided to stop controlling citizens with permanent residence book

By Vi Vu   November 4, 2017 | 05:32 pm GMT+7
Vietnam has decided to stop controlling citizens with permanent residence book
People register for their ID numbers in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

The decades-old management method has come to signify Vietnam's red tape by tying one person’s life and career to a particular city/province.

The government has decided to scrap the archaic residence books in favor of an online database whereby each citizen will be registered with a personal identification code.

The resolution issued earlier this week says that Vietnam will stop managing its citizen registration through the residency book, which attaches a person to a permanent address.

The book, ho khau in Vietnamese, has been in effect since the 1960s as an instrument of public security, economic planning, and control of migration, similarly to China's hukou. In the post-war period, the book was used as a means to ration food and allocate jobs under the then planned economy. 

But following economic reforms since the late 1980s, Vietnam has adopted a socialist oriented market economy and ho khau has been kept to limit migration to booming cities, to no avail.

A report issued last year by the World Bank says 36 percent of the population in Ho Chi Minh City and 18 percent in Hanoi lack ho khau.

“This study shows that the ho khau system has created inequality of opportunity for Vietnamese citizens,” Achim Fock, the World Bank’s Acting Country Director for Vietnam, said in 2016.

The book has come to signify Vietnam's excessive red tape. It is required in most administrative procedures including filing a birth certificate, going to school, getting married, and it decides how easy it is for one to find a job, buy a house or a vehicle.

A person who is registered outside Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City will not be able to buy a motorbike or a house under their own name in these cities, for example.

In most cities and provinces in Vietnam, people can only become a public worker where they are registered as permanent resident.

And once a person moves, he or she will have to go through many doors to remove their name from one residency book and add it to another.

It is not yet clear how the new personal code would work and whether it will create any breakthroughs in paperwork.

But from now on, people will at least have one less document to worry about.